As the London Majors join the 2021 Intercounty Baseball League playoffs Friday night at Labatt Park, they find themselves five victories away from a place they have not been since 1975.
That was the last time London won the IBL championship.
They have been to the final seven times since but came away runners-up in the search for what has become an elusive title for the Majors.
But this year has provided one of the best opportunities. London rocketed into the return of the league, winning their first four games by a combined score of 40-6.
They held that momentum all season and captured the IBL pennant.
Roop Chanderdat purchased the Majors with Scott Dart in 2005 and Chanderdat has that little added hint of anticipation in his voice when he looks ahead at Game 1 of a best-of-three series against the Brantford Red Sox.
“The focus and the drive (of the players) has been a championship from day one. We’re talking about the playoffs. We’re talking about taking care of business and trying to get to the final.”
The road to the final is a quick one, kind of like turning onto a one-way street near Western Fair. You hit the next intersection almost instantly and if Chanderdat is to allow for some concern amongst his enthusiasm it is to make sure his team is still zeroed in after some down time as the first round of the post-season was played.
“We had the bye plus we clinched the pennant early so we’ve had a lot of time off. The only thing you are wondering about is rust and momentum. We know the importance of getting off to a good start in a short series.”
Things begin Friday at 7:35 p.m. at Labatt Park and then immediately shift to Brantford for Game 2 on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 is right back at Labatt Park on Sunday evening at 7:35 p.m.
Chanderdat says the goal leading up to the first pitch was the get his club used to game speed.
“We did some live work during the week where pitchers faced live hitting.”
He knows there is no simulating the real thing, something the Red Sox got in a 2-0 series victory over the Kitchener Panthers.
“Brantford is a good team,” says Chanderdat. “They are a club that matches up well against us with good defence and deep pitching.”
Still, London did not win the IBL pennant by accident. The Majors are a team that does a whole lot of things well.
“We’ve had really good pitching,” points out Chanderdat. “Owen Boon and Pedro De Los Santos get a lot of the credit. They have been leading our team from a starting perspective. Then we have Braeden Ferrington out of the pen. We also have a team that can manufacture runs and if our big bats are getting them that’s a bonus, too.”
Two of the three times a Chanderdat-managed London team has made it to the championship, they have faced Brantford and had to watch the Red Sox celebrate.
This semifinal series won’t come complete with any champagne at the end but the team that makes it through will be one best-of-five series from winning it all.
That’s something the Majors have been waiting a long time for.